In 2016, three semitrailers filled with cheese were stolen in Wisconsin. The crimes continue to stump law enforcement who suspect the bandits may be involved in other cargo crimes targeting the freight shipping industry.

APPLETON, Wis. — For one hard-luck semitrailer driver, the routine task of hauling 20,000 pounds of fresh Wisconsin cheese led to a mysterious crime that remains unresolved a year later.

That night, the semitrailer pulled into a storage facility near Interstate 94. The Oak Creek, Wis., business seemed a safe place to temporarily leave his trailer while he got his truck serviced. The property had video surveillance and a chain-link fence. The truck had been traveling from Green Bay to the Milwaukee area.

But by 2 a.m., when the driver returned, his trailer was gone. Someone made off with $46,000 worth of stolen cheese.

Where did the cheese go? Where did the semitrailer wind up? Just who was the cheese bandit? A year later, detectives in Wisconsin still don’t know.

The Oak Creek case from June 30 was one of three cheese heists last year — strange, unusual crimes that gave Wisconsin plenty of national notoriety.

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A semitrailer filled with 41,000 pounds of Parmesan cheese was stolen in Marshfield and another trailer of assorted cheeses was taken in Germantown. That pair of crimes occurred in January 2016, about a week apart. Both of those loads were recovered. The Marshfield shipment of cheese turned up about two weeks later at a storage warehouse near Appleton, about 105 miles southeast. The trailer of cheese from Germantown turned up at a grocery store lot in Milwaukee, about 25 miles southeast.

“It’s an organized type of crime,” said Marshfield Police Lt. Darren Larson. “It’s certainly very plausible because of the sophisticated nature of these crimes that you need knowledge of the (freight) shipping business.”

Profiling a cheese thief 

Why would someone steal a truck stocked with thousands of pounds of yellow cheddar? Police and industry experts say it’s all about resale value. The cheese from Marshfield had an estimated retail value of $90,000. The cheese taken from Germantown was worth $70,000, while the cheese stolen in Oak Creek was worth $46,000.

But keep in mind, these are blocks of cheese. Not bags of money being hauled out of your local bank. Even in Wisconsin, you can’t exactly go door to door with this stuff.

Unless your plan is to eat all the cheese, stealing a full cheese truck might be more trouble than it’s worth.

“The harder part is figuring out what to do with it,” agreed John…